As you all are aware, there is a large hole near the west end of downtown Saline. The hole is the result of a mixed use (retail and residential) development that would have been a very nice addition to downtown Saline, but fell victim to the economy being turned upside down in 2008; similar to thousands of projects around the nation. First, some brief history of the Village Market Place + Lofts project. The project received required City approvals in 2007 and began environmental clean-up efforts in early 2008 with installation of underground utilities beginning as well. Unfortunately, the summer of 2008 saw the project developer lose bank financing for the project, which resulted in the construction activity coming to an abrupt halt.
The project’s original site plan approval expired in February 2009. The developer, Mike Concannon, requested and received multiple extensions of the site plan approval, with the final extension expiring in February 2010. The Saline Planning Commission voted unanimously in February 2010 to not extend the Village Market Place + Lofts site plan approval. Additionally, the Saline City Council voted unanimously to revoke the project’s special land use permit in February 2010 after receiving a recommendation from the Saline Planning Commission to do the same.
During the multiple site plan extensions, Mr. Concannon claimed to be pursuing and actually to have secured new financing to complete the project. Unfortunately, according to Mr. Concannon, the project was not able to actually take possession of the necessary financing. Mr. Concannon also submitted a letter to the Saline Planning Commission with the last request for site plan extension that was not granted. The letter blamed the banking institutions for not granting financing for the project’s business tenants. Mr. Concannon wrote in his last letter that, “This action by the banks effectively kills the Project.”
City staff sent a letter dated April 8, 2010 to Mr. Concannen regarding the status of the Village Market Place + Lofts; specifically two items – general maintenance per the Saline Zoning Code and protection of the public health and welfare. The general maintenance per the Saline Zoning Code included two items: 1) Mowing of grass/weeds to a height of seven inches or less and 2) Removing junk/debris from the property. The protection of the public health and welfare included four items: 1) That the land be graded, filled and drained so that water problems do not negatively impact the public health, safety and welfare; 2) That the land be graded, filled and drained so that it can be maintained in an urban lawn-like manner and not attract or contribute to anything deleterious to the urban environment or its activities; 3) That the perimeter fencing be maintained in a safe and serviceable manner; and 4) That the cross-lot sanitary lead for 101 South Lewis Street be reconnected to the service line the developer installed under US-12, near the Lewis Street/US-12 intersection. City staff included two deadlines in the April 8, 2010 letter. The first deadline required Mr. Concannon to submit a remediation plan to address the above items by May 1, 2010 to be reviewed by City staff. The second deadline required Mr. Concannon to complete the necessary site remediation improvements by July 1, 2010. May 1, 2010 and July 1, 2010 both came and went without any reply from Mr. Concannon.
The Saline City Council voted unanimously at their July 12, 2010 regular City Council meeting to file a lawsuit against Mr. Concannon and partnerships. City Attorney Allan Grossman filed a lawsuit as of July 29, 2010, against The Concannon Company, The Village Market Place + Lofts and SRV Ventures regarding the four parcels that make up the new defunct project. The complaint filed by the City of Saline as of July includes two counts. The first count claims the property is a nuisance per se – zoning use violations. The second count includes failure to reimburse the City of Saline for installing a temporary sidewalk (along US-12). There was not any response to the Court or the City by the defendants. On November 5, 2010, City Attorney Grossman went before the Honorable Judge Timothy P. Connors requesting a default judgment against the defendants. Judge Connors granted the default judgment in the City of Saline’s favor.
The next step is to determine how, if the City is able, to enforce the default judgment and make the defendants comply with the decision of the Court. Additionally, the four property parcels in question are currently in the middle of being foreclosed upon by Washtenaw County due to unpaid property taxes. The redemption period for the owners to pay off the back taxes will expire March 31, 2011. The Washtenaw County Treasurer’s Office posted the properties in question with a “Notice of Show Cause Hearing and Judicial Foreclosure Hearing.” The show cause hearing is scheduled for February 9, 2011 and the judicial foreclosure hearing is scheduled for February 23, 2011. The properties in question will be auctioned off once the redemption period has expired.
As you all can see, the City of Saline has been and will continue to actively pursue a resolution to the issue of the “big hole” in downtown Saline. Right, wrong or indifferent, the process is what the process is and it takes a significant amount of time to go through. There are still some significant questions that will only be answered in time, such as will the current property owners redeem the property by paying the back taxes? If not, who will end up owning the property and for how much? And, how/when will the property be cleaned up and restored to a more acceptable level? Please contact Todd Campbell, City Manager at 429-3148 or by e-mail at email@example.com with any questions/comments.